Press release RC 3.45

SECOND BINDING ADVICE ON RESTITUTION OF TOOROP PAINTING

The Zeeuwse Museum Foundation is required to return the painting entitled A Prayer Before Supper by Jan Toorop to the heirs to the estate of the former owner upon payment by the heirs of EUR 121,500 to the Zeeuwse Museum Foundation (hereafter referred to as ‘the Museum’). Should the heirs decide to sell the work within the next ten years, they will be obliged to offer it for sale to the Museum first. This is the second binding advice issued by the Restitutions Committee, which issues recommendations on claims to looted works of art.

The binding advice concerns a dispute about the ownership of A Prayer Before Supper, which is currently part of the collection of the Zeeuws Museum in Middelburg (the Netherlands). The dispute is between the grandchildren of the Jewish owner, who lost possession of the painting in or around 1938, and the Museum, which purchased the painting in 1981.

A Prayer Before Supper was owned by Jewish businessman and art collector Ernst Flersheim in Frankfurt am Main. From 1933 on, his family suffered increasingly from anti-Semitic measures imposed by the Nazi regime in Germany, which caused the family to flee the country. In or around 1938, a number of works of art from the Flersheim collection that had remained behind in Germany were confiscated by the Gestapo, including the piece entitled A Prayer Before Supper. Decades later, in 1981, the Museum purchased the painting from a Dutch art dealer.

In its advice, the Committee finds that the painting should be returned to the Flersheim heirs due to the fact that Flersheim lost possession of the painting involuntarily, the deep emotional importance of the return to the grandchildren and their offer to repay the purchase price to the Museum. The Committee also finds that when the painting was purchased in 1981, the Museum was in no way guilty of acting unconscientiously. The Committee believes it to be reasonable and fair that the heirs pay EUR 121,500 to the Museum. This is the sum paid by the Museum for the purchase of the painting in 1981 (NLG 150,000), indexed according to the general price index. The Committee also stipulates that if the Flersheim heirs decide to sell the painting within a period of ten years, they will be obliged to offer it for sale to the Museum first.

The Restitutions Committee

Since January 2002, the Restitutions Committee has provided recommendations to the Minister for Education, Culture and Science regarding 58 claims to items of cultural value in the possession of the national government. In addition, the Committee can also issue binding advice in accordance with Section 2, subsection 2 of the Decree establishing the Advisory Committee on the Assessment of Restitution Applications concerning disputes between two parties over an item of cultural value that is not in the possession of the national government. Such advice is given on the basis of what is ‘reasonable and fair’. This is the second time that such binding advice has been given. 
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More information:
For more information, please contact Evelien Campfens, secretary/rapporteur of the Restitutions Committee on +31(0)70 376 59 92.